What if you had to “level up” to master a product?

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In The next big UI idea gadgets that adapt to your skill Philip Battin discusses the benefits of implementing a responsive user experience that matches that of a video game.

Battin reasons that a successful video game presents a balance between the game’s challenge and its user’s skill level. This is rather intuitive: as the skill of a player increases, he ready to take on more difficult challenges. If a player doesn’t have the skill to complete a task, the game will be considered too difficult. On the flip side, if the player is too skilled and can quickly complete all the tasks, the game is too easy.

Battin uses the popular online game, World of Warcraft (WoW) to illustrate his point. “As you complete…quests, you gain Experience Points (XP) and your character’s level rises. Higher levels unlock new challenges, functionalities, and increasing difficulty. Eventually, you’re introduced to the full potential of the game, with challenges [that] involve social interactions with other players.” He points out that research shows that WoW, “is just as cognitively challenging for novice players as for proficient ones contributing to the long-term value of the game.”

Although I find the concept of taking the step-by-step approach of gaming and applying it to other products fascinating, it is not practical, and even hindering, in the long run.

Some might have no motivation to learn how to complete a certain task. Others are happy just knowing enough to get by. This may be true of those who aren’t tech-savvy or are stuck in the methods of their older generation. Maybe the consumer has a handy husband or relatives who already knows all the steps to make scheduled recordings on a fancy TV and don’t see the need to learn how to do so.

Let’s say there is a way to opt out of the level up system in a product. Even if there is an option to do so, it’ll be a hassle to figure out how to turn it off. And if the user accidentally skips over it (admit it, we’ve all button-mashed at some point in our lives), they will have to figure out how to open it again. This will result in a string of frustration on the consumer’s part.

This system is not beneficial to everyone. Some people learn at a faster pace and do not like the basic step-by-step approach because there are some things they already know. And lastly, a good design should not have to rely heavily on textual instructions in order to teach the consumer how to use the product.

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